A local director’s short documentary recently received a nod from the mayor of Edmonton.
Eric Spoeth’s documentary, Building Bridges, was recognized on Nov. 26 in the city’s council chambers. Mayor Don Iveson made his remarks in front of the 13 city councillors, and a visiting Grade 5/6 school group. Spoeth, as well as members of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre, were invited to a Council Protocol reception recognizing the Building Bridges film as well as the ongoing work of interfaith work in the city of Edmonton.
“The video is a call-to-action as part of World Interfaith Harmony Week, a global movement that began at the United Nations and aims to foster greater tolerance and reduce religious extremism,” Spoeth said.
Building Bridges is meant to be a conversation-starter between family members, friends and colleagues about understanding their religious identity, says Spoeth. The 14-minute documentary follows a group of Catholic high school students who are taken by their Religious Studies teacher to a variety of places of worship in the city where they get a chance to learn about the similarities and differences between their faith tradition and others. It was directed by Spoeth, and commissioned by the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action (EIC).
“It was an honour to be asked to helm this project, and an honour to be acknowledged by Mayor Iveson,” Spoeth said. “The documentary highlights the roots of interfaith conversations and efforts here in Edmonton… and celebrates the City’s involvement in these initiatives,” according to the mayor’s speaking notes. “Thank you all for your continued efforts to support interfaith dialogue in our city… and promote the values of harmony, peace and understanding."
The EIC had received a grant to raise awareness for World Interfaith Harmony Week and reached out to the filmmaking community to submit proposals for a 10-12 minute film. Spoeth’s proposal had been selected and he was commissioned to produce the documentary.
As a son of immigrants, Spoeth says he has always felt a kinship with people from diverse backgrounds.
“Our closest family friends were Egyptian, Latvian, Japanese,” Spoeth said. “We also never shied away from controversial conversations about religion at the dinner table.”
His parents' spiritual journeys throughout their lives led them to explore Hinduism, Buddhism, and eastern meditation, before eventually finding the Catholic faith.
“One of my brothers became a monk,” he said. According to Spoeth, “Defining one-another by cultural background, occupation, or sexual preference are low-resolution definitions that don't necessarily paint a complete picture of the essence of a person.”
Spoeth has written, produced, and directed over 15 short-films. In 2018, his film Waiting for Waldemer, won three awards and was nominated for four Alberta Film & Television Awards.
Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action is a locally run non-profit organization that facilitates interfaith solidarity and understanding in the city.